Finding the perfect place

hile the song may say "It's a Small World After All," the planet is not a tiny place, and there are lots of destinations that don't get as much attention as they should.

Crystal Carroll, manager of Conference Travel Limited in Raleigh, N.C., said one of her top relatively unknown destinations is Grenada.

"Grenada is one of the places that people do not ask for," said Carroll. "It's a place where a lot of people do not go, but it's an almost untouched island. There are a lot of natural places there, and you're not going to find 2,000 people in one spot."

Grenada's natural attractions make it an appealing destination.Carroll has sent a handful of clients to the island. "They thought it was a perfect place to go."

Dan Curd, owner of Dan's Travel in Madison, Wis., cited Tahiti as one of his favorite places because the island is "so superior to Hawaii or the Caribbean."

He sold a lot of honeymooners on Tahiti, although it might not have been on top of their list.

"People will come in with Hawaii in mind but think about Tahiti once they find out the price difference isn't that much," said Curd.

Costa Rica is another spot that tends to surpass his clients' expectations. Curd said Costa Rica has a good selection of small, upscale hotels from which to choose, and the nation's scenery and relatively undeveloped state are also appealing.

"With a lot of places, you're lucky if a place meets their expectations," said Curd. "With Costa Rica, it exceeds, and that's always good."

Curd added that South America, in general, doesn't get as much attention as it should.

Another of Curd's favorites are around-the-world air fares. Depending on the airline, customers can circumnavigate the globe for surprisingly little money, according to Curd, who said he booked a client on a trip from Florida to Chicago to Hawaii to Hong Kong to Bangkok to London and back to Florida.

Of course, for every underrated place there is a place that is somewhat overrated.

Donna Coffey, senior travel consultant at Carlson Wagonlit Travel in San Diego, said Mexico is not an easy draw for her agency due to its proximity.

Yet, while many destinations in the country are good, Coffey thought at least one had gone too far. "Cabo San Lucas is too Americanized; it's too expensive," said Coffey.

Coffey, who recently visited Cabo, related a story in which she asked a concierge to reconfirm her reservations at the airport. The cost for the call, $3.50 a minute, was enough to send her somewhere else.

-- Grant Flowers

Selling what lies beyond

t's no secret that travelers are becoming more adventurous in their destinations, and the travel agents who book these trips are getting more adventurous, too.

If you want to hear about some far afield places, ring up Dottie Praus, an agent at Meteor International Travel in Houston, and stand back.

Praus, an avid bird-watcher, recently returned from Myanmar, the Asian country formerly known as Burma. The nation isn't a usual destination for tourists, but those who love natural settings and a relatively untouched culture would enjoy it, said Praus.

A nun greets visitors in the village of Sagaing, Myanmar.The three-week trip to Myanmar and Thailand included transport by train, boat and, of course, elephant. "You're not going for the city, you're going for the original part of the country as it was maybe 70 years ago," she said.

Praus was recently in Nepal and India, as well, and was also part of a 17-person group that visited Antarctica.

She's now planning a trip to Tibet and Bhutan with a group of clients and friends.

"We don't mind roughing it for a little bit, and when you go to Bhutan and Tibet, you do have to rough it," said Praus, who has been an agent for 25 years.

With such destinations on her resume, it's not surprising that Praus serves a mostly upscale clientele. Many of her clients are members of a nature center where she used to work.

So what does it take to sell a client on such a trip?

"Not much," said Praus, "just enthusiasm and having been there. I haven't yet been to a place in this world that wasn't great for some reason."

Business matters

What if I can't pay the taxes when a tax return is due?

A: It's important to file the return on time anyway, even if you don't include any payment at all. By filing on time, you can avoid the 5% per month penalty that will be assessed for late filing, which is in addition to the late payment penalty.

Dan McManus.Keep in mind that the IRS is usually willing to accept installment plans, though it is more likely to do that for a company that has ceased operations than an ongoing entity. However, as a practical matter, the IRS has little choice but to accept an installment plan if you can document that you do not have sufficient working capital to pay the prior tax bill.

Q:Will the IRS waive penalties for filing late?

A: Not usually. The IRS will assess penalties against you, including 5% per month up to a maximum of 25% for late filing; 6% for late payment, which will increase to 12% after the final notice, and 9% annual interest.

Q:Can the IRS seize my assets?

A: Yes, if you are not making an attempt to pay the taxes you owe. If you are already behind and you don't make an effort to catch up, and you continue to miss tax payments, the IRS will most likely accelerate its enforcement actions against you. The IRS wants to prevent you from creating an increasing tax debt that you may never be able to settle.

The IRS also can file a blanket lien if it suspects you are hiding assets. The lien prevents you from selling all real and personal property without the IRS' approval. If you find yourself unable to pay taxes, and you are not satisfied with the offer made by the IRS, consider hiring an attorney or CPA to help negotiate on your behalf.

Q:How long does it take for a health problem to become an ADA disability?

A: Unfortunately, there are no hard-and-fast rules. What seems to be most important are the severity and impact of the condition.

For example, employees with minor heart conditions that don't hinder their job duties typically wouldn't be protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, although the condition is permanent.

However, a worker who has a heart attack while on the job and is put out of commission for months could be protected although the condition is temporary.

As a general rule, it's better to accommodate any employee with health problems. Unfortunately, the ADA rules are so complex that you need to get advice on a case-by-case basis.

Q:I need to talk to my employees about dressing better for work. Any suggestions?

A: When you talk to your employees about their attire, take the role of a coach and not judge and jury.

Make it clear that maintaining a professional appearance is part of the work you expect from them. Cite specific ways that sloppy dressing can affect the agency and how it's perceived by customers.

Share your ideas of what you consider appropriate and inappropriate, but don't get personal.

Encourage your employees to see you privately if they have any problems with your expectations.

Former agency owner Dan McManus is president of the McManus Group, publishers of business management advice. Contact him at [email protected].


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